Borough strikes deal with new VNA

NAUGATUCK — The borough has reached an agreement with the Visiting Nurses Association of South Central Connecticut that will bring the organization to Naugatuck later this year.

The New Haven-based VNASCC will provide visiting nurses services after the Naugatuck Visiting Nurses Association closes in September.

The agreement was approved 7-2 during a special Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting June 17.

According to the agreement, the VNASCC will move into the office currently occupied by the Naugatuck VNA at 600 Rubber Ave. The borough will lease the building to the organization for free and continue to pay for the utilities and maintenance of the building, the agreement states.

This won’t cost the borough much more than if the VNASCC wasn’t moving in, according to Controller Robert Butler.

“Given the fact we were closing building, we budgeted to maintain it empty. Really there’s no change in what we budgeted or planned for,” Butler said.

According to budget figures for 2014-15, upkeep of the building is estimated to cost about $20,000.

This move came about after a long-term strategic plan developed by West Hartford-based consulting firm Blum, Shapiro & Co. recommended the borough considering privatizing certain services, including the VNA.

The Naugatuck VNA has been a borough department for nearly 100 years, but borough officials made the decision this year to no longer fund the agency. It is one of a handful of VNAs in the state that remain under municipal control.

The move to defund the Naugatuck VNA is an effort to streamline government and save money.

According to Butler, the Naugatuck VNA expended $970,000 in the 2012-13 fiscal year and brought in $975,000 in revenue. However, after factoring the cost of health care and pensions for employees the department ran a deficit of $375,000, he said.

According to the contract the Naugatuck VNA expects to cease to accept new patient referrals after Aug. 15 and to cease providing direct patient care services as of Sept. 25. The borough has budgeted approximately $385,000 in the 2014-15 fiscal year to fund the Naugatuck VNA until it closes.

“As we celebrate our 110th year anniversary, which has included serving Naugatuck and the Valley, we are excited to expand our services within Naugatuck. We share the same commitment and mission that the Naugatuck VNA has provided the community and residents can rest assured they will continue to have the quality and caring services that they have been accustomed to expect from a VNA,” VNASCC President and Chief Executive Officer John Quinn said in a prepared statement.

The Naugatuck VNA will transition patients to the new agency or any other agency a patient may choose. Effective immediately, Naugatuck residents can be referred to the VNASCC by calling (203) 859-6070.

Opening a satellite office is not a usual business practice for the VNASCC, which is a nonprofit organization that operates in 43 municipalities.

Quinn said in a previous interview that VNASCC employees work remotely and do not report to the main office in New Haven every day.

According to the contract the VNASCC would only have to maintain an office presence in the borough until June 30, 2015.

Mezzo said a new contract could be put in place to extend the VNASCC’s stay if both sides feel it’s a good arrangement.

“There is desire on both parts to analyze the arrangement after the first year. It gives flexibility to both the VNA and the borough,” Mezzo said. “We thought it was important to keep a local presence during transition.”

Burgesses Laurie Taf Jackson and Alex Olbrys offered the two opposing votes to the agreement. The burgesses cited giving the VNASCC free use of the building among their reasons for voting against it.

“According to the financial figures it was said that the Naugatuck VNA lost money last year. But now, according to the agreement with the VNA of South Central Connecticut, they will have a satellite office at our building on Rubber Avenue with the use of all the equipment, computers, furniture, including all utilities, maintenance and insurance at no cost to them. … This is not right,” Jackson wrote in an email.

Olbrys echoed Jackson’s concerns.

“I understand that they are not-for-profit, but I at least think they need to pay the utilities on the building. The borough should not be covering their utilities. I do like the idea of having a VNA that works with the borough, but I was just not in support of the free use of the building and the borough picking up the utilities tab,” Olbrys said.

Jackson also expressed concerns about the future of the Naugatuck VNA employees.

“The staff at the Naugatuck VNA were dedicated and hard-working individuals. They showed compassion and gave their loving care to all their patients. Many of these employees live in Naugatuck and pay taxes in Naugatuck. Some will get their retirement and others will be unemployed,” Jackson said.

When the Naugatuck VNA does close approximately 20 employees will lose their jobs. A severance agreement for employees was approved earlier this year.

Under the agreement, the VNASCC is not obligated to offer any current employees jobs.

The VNASCC currently has no plans to hire the employees, Quinn said in a previous interview. However, he wrote in the prepared statement, it is expected that a few members of the existing Naugatuck VNA clinical team will accept employment with the VNASCC to provide some continuity.

Although the VNASCC will be taking over the offices on Rubber Avenue, it was not the only agency that expressed interest in carrying on visiting nurse services in conjunction with the borough.

All About You Home Care Services, a private company in Naugatuck that also offers visiting nurse services, reached out to the borough last fall, according to All About You Home Care Services Community Liaison Veronica Rinaldi.

Rinaldi said the company wanted to ensure residents were well taken care of in the borough. However, she said, the company got the impression that the borough wasn’t interested.

“We wanted to provide services because we are here in the community,” Rinaldi said.

Mezzo said the borough received correspondence from the company in September 2013, but had not heard anything since that time.

“We didn’t here from them since. They never broached the subject again. We thought they didn’t have a strong interest,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo said conversely there was constant communication between the borough and VNASCC.

Mezzo acknowledged that there are other private agencies, such as All About You, that residents can turn to.

“No patient is forced to go with the VNA of South Central Connecticut. They all have choices. We thought it important to provide an option to local residents through having another agency operate in borough as we transition,” Mezzo said.

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